The following information on Luger and P-38 pistols manufactured by Mauser comes from Chapter 38 of Mauser Rifles and Pistols by W. H. B. Smith. Mauser Rifles and Pistols is also available to purchase in print.
These arms are in every way the counterparts of the earlier Lugers made by Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken whose facilities were taken over by Mauser after World War I.
The Luger pistol as manufactured by Mauser before World War II may be identified by the standard Mauser name and trademark which appears on the toggle on top of the pistol.
Until 1937, Mauser manufactured these pistols only in the 7.65mm (.30) Parabellum or Luger type. No legal manufacture of any caliber larger than this was permitted in Germany under the Treaty of Versailles rules, during that period. Mauser pistols of this time made on the Luger design have 3.75 inch barrel, 8.25 inch overall length, and magazine capacity of 8 cartridges. In 1937, Mauser provided these pistols with wooden stock similar in design to those furnished with the Mauser Military Pistols. These stocks were hollow and were used to carry the pistol when not in use. The pistol could be attached by a mortise through the forward end of the stock and used as a carbine. This model had a barrel about 8 inches long.
As the war approached, Mauser again manufactured standard Luger pistols of 9mm caliber with 4-inch barrels. Luger pistols manufactured during World War II for the German Government by Mauser may be identified by the date and by the code stamp “byf”.
The Luger Pistol
The Luger (or Parabellum) pistol is a short-recoil operated, locked breech weapon. The breech is securely locked until the bullet is out of the barrel. Since no gas can escape, a uniform pressure is maintained behind the projectile.
The locking system operates on the toggle-joint lever system much in the fashion of a human knee.
During the locking period, the toggles lie below the line of thrust. When the barrel reaches its full recoil position and is halted together with the part of the sub-receiver into which it is screwed, and with which it travels in the main receiver guide, the toggles hit ramps and are buckled up, pulling the breechblock directly back away from the face of the chamber to extract and eject the empty case. During this buckling movement, a bell-crank lever arrangement attached to the rear of the toggle is pulled up to act to compress a coil spring mounted around the guide in the rear of the grip section of the receiver. At the end of the recoil stroke, this spring reasserts itself and pulling down on the bell crank thrusts the toggle straight ahead. The breechblock strips the cartridge from the top of the magazine and chambers it. The toggle arms are flattened out so their joint is lower than the line of the breechblock, thereby providing positive locking support.
This is a striker-fired weapon, the striker being cocked by an arm on the toggle-joint engaging in a projection on the striker pin to pull it back as the toggle buckles. The trigger, working through an angle lever in the trigger plate transmits pressure on the trigger along the side of the receiver to force the sear out of engagement and permits the striker to be driven forward by its spring to fire the cartridge in the chamber. The magazine is of standard construction except it is provided with a slot in the right side wall in which travels a button protruding from the magazine follower. Pulling down on this button draws the follower down and permits easier loading than is possible with the standard types of magazine where the cartridge itself must be thrust down to force the follower down.
No grip safeties are provided on Mauser-manufactured Lugers. When the thumb safety is pushed back, it thrusts a forward arm up to block movement of the sear, and prevents firing.
The ejector, which is mounted on top of the breechblock; rises above the face of the breechblock when the chamber is loaded.
Thus, if the projection can be felt or seen, the chamber is known to be loaded.
When the last shot has been fired, this arm stays open, the magazine follower button acting to push a catch up to hold the breechblock. When a loaded magazine is inserted, pulling back on the toggle will free the breechblock from the catch. Releasing it will permit the recoil spring operating through the bell-crank lever to close the action and chamber a cartridge ready for firing.
Dismounting this pistol is very simple. First the toggle is pulled back and up over an empty magazine. The breech will stay open. Then the magazine release button on the left side of the receiver behind the trigger is pushed. This permits withdrawal of the magazine from the bottom of the pistol. The locking catch on the left side of the receiver above the triggerguard is then pushed down. Pulling back on the toggle and easing it forward will force the side plate above the trigger out. This plate with the attached trigger lever is removed. The pistol is then turned upside down to prevent the bell-crank lever from causing dismounting trouble, and the barrel and breech assembly are slid off the main receiver. The trigger and its spring may be pulled out of the receiver if necessary. If the toggle is buckled slightly to take pressure off its connecting pin at the rear, the pin may be driven out from right to left, and the breechblock and toggle assembly may be pulled to the rear out of their guides in the sub-receiver section into which the barrel is screwed. All other parts may now be dismounted without difficulty.
The characteristics of the smaller Luger cartridges are as follows: Caliber 7.65mm. The lead bullet is full metal jacketed as a rule and weighs 93 grains. (Some ammunition was made with soft or hollow point bullets protruding from a partial jacket). The muzzle velocity with 3.75 inch barrel averages about 1225 feet per second, though it may be 50 feet per second higher or lower in ammunition of varying manufacture. The average striking energy is 310 foot pounds, and the average penetration at 15 feet and 7/8th inch soft pine board is 11 boards. This cartridge when used in the long barreled Luger gave ballistics about ten percent greater. When fired with a shoulder stock as a carbine, this arm is reasonably effective at 500 yards and is dangerous at 1500 yards or more.
The 9mm Luger Cartridge
This cartridge is variously loaded with a bullet averaging 125 grains. The bullet is generally full jacketed but was also manufactured with soft point, and with hollow point. This cartridge was loaded as low as 1025 feet per second velocity (with an M.E. of 340 foot pounds) to as high as 1500 feet per second velocity. In one standard loading producing 1110 feet per second velocity the penetration at 15 feet is 10 soft pine boards of 7/8th inch thickness.
The Luger pistol has been manufactured since 1900. Several German manufacturers have made this arm. It also has been manufactured in small quantity by Vickers in England and to a limited extent in Switzerland.
Arms made and manufactured during the periods of World War I and World War II and many manufactured and built up from spare parts between the wars and sold for export are not of the best quality.
Any Luger pistol bearing the Mauser trademark is of the finest quality both of material and workmanship. However, it must be kept in mind that unless Mauser name or code is found on all principal parts, the arm may be assembled one.
These pistols were manufactured by Mauser right up to the closing of World War II, the war product being inferior in finish and workmanship to the commercial manufacture.
The only difference between the two calibers in general is the bore of the barrel.